If you’re starting a private practice, you need marketing. But not just any marketing... you need marketing for therapists. Here, I go through the exact strategy and recommendations that I make (and execute) for my clients. Are you ready for niched, proven private practice marketing tactics? Let's get started.
If you aren’t planning on getting a website for your mental health practice, I recommend closing this tab.
Websites are your online business, your brand--they are often your only reliable chance of reaching potential clients online.
Websites for therapists are absolutely fundamental. Do the good ones cost money? Yes. Will they pay off in no time? Absolutely.
In this section, I’ll discuss branding, photography, cost, content, privacy, websites builders, subscription services and technical performance.
What is a brand?
In the marketing space, a brand can be defined in many ways. For our purposes, I’ll say this: you as a therapist--as a person--become a brand online. Potential clients have to love your brand to contact you.
Developing a brand can cost thousands of dollars, but I like to keep it simple.
Brand is typically considered a visual marketing tactic. That means your logo, colors, photography, etc.
However, your brand, your identity, goes so much deeper. To design these assets, you must first concretely decide who you are as a company. As a solo practitioner, your company is an extension of your personal and professional self--keep that in mind.
Brand can be understood as personality.
How do you define a personality? I’m sure many clients of yours sit in your office with identity crises, but as ironic as it is, you do need to nail a few things down yourself.
Essentially, brand is defined by the value of the following five spheres:
After deciding the value of each of these traits, then apply adjectives to your brand within the spheres. If your brand is exciting, is it daring or hopeful? If it’s sophisticated, is it expensive or elevated?
If you can nail these down BEFORE you’ve done any other marketing, you will thank yourself later. After these “traits” are defined, then you can design, write, and market confidentently and seamlessly.
With branding, it’s crucial that the experience is consistent. Everything online and offline should look and feel like your brand. If not, it’s a jarring and forgettable experience for potential clients.
Absolutely. Get. Professionally. Taken. Photography.
Second to your website, this is the best investment that you can make. In fact, I prefer not to work with clients that don’t have or pursue professional photography.
Not only does it take your website to the next level, it:
Although it does cost money, photography doesn’t have to be expensive.
Actionable tip: finding a photographer
For my website and social media photos, I went to Instagram and searched #denverphotographer. Do the same with your city--#houstonphotographer, #bostonphotographer, etc.
From there, look for a photography style that aligns with your brand. Ask yourself: will I feel comfortable with this person? Do their photos look how I want to look?
Then, check how many followers they have. If they have a couple thousand, they will be pricey since they upcharge based on their reputation. Try to find a photographer with less than 1,000 followers to keep costs down.
There are a few types of shots to get for your private practice marketing efforts:
I recommend taking photos inside, if possible. That way, the seasons won’t affect how your pictures come off year-round.
Actionable tip: feeling confident
If you feel good about yourself, you’ll look happy and confident in your photos.
What makes you feel good? A fresh haircut? Your favorite pair of jeans? Whatever it is, make sure that you’re feeling confident, even if it means spending extra on a makeup artist, stylist, or new clothes.
For me, content is everything.
You need the following types of content for your therapist website:
You can write some of this content yourself, but I recommend hiring content writers for service pages since they typically know how to write content that it is optimized for ranking on search engines.
As you know, privacy is a crucial part of your online presence.
You don’t want your contact information out for all the world to see, especially if things with a client go sour.
Here are a few suggestions:
Actionable tip: Blocking unwanted attention
If for some reason you continue to be contacted by someone undesirably (like a past client), you can block their IP address. This is technically complicated, so I recommend seeking the assistance of professionals.
It’s one thing to have a website, but it’s a whole other thing for potential clients to see your website.
That’s where SEO comes in.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the ongoing work of getting your site to rank on search engines (like Google, Bing, or Yahoo) for keywords.
At Therapieseo, this is my specialty and passion (Therapie[seo], get it?).
Here, I'll discuss the following: keywords, bots, ranking factors, link building, content writing, technicality, and local SEO.
Keywords are a word or a string of words that people type into search engines.
When you strategize for SEO, you first decide on the keywords you would like to rank for. For example, if you are a depression and anxiety therapist in San Diego, California, you would want to rank for keywords like these:
The keywords above are transactional. This means that the people searching using these keywords are looking to make a transaction, which in this case, is hiring a therapist.
A robust SEO strategy also targets informational keywords. These keywords can include things like:
As you can see, these people (at the moment) aren’t actively searching for a therapist. At this point, they’re in the research phase. Maybe they’re researching for ways to help themselves or a friend. Either way, they’re not hiring anyone.
Informational keywords simply meet people a little bit before they are ready to hire. If you provide informational content like this, you are the first therapist that pops in their mind when they’re ready to meet with someone. If you introduce your brand as helpful and knowledgeable, they will remember you.
Google (or Bing, or any other search engine) uses bots (also known as robots or spiders) when someone enters a keyword.
As soon as that person clicks “enter,” Google deploys these bots at lightning speed to scour the internet for the best search results. If a page ranks well for a keyword, Google deems that page as one of the best results for that person’s query.
SEO work optimizes your website so that bots choose your page to rank.
So how do bots choose, and how do SEOs optimize sites for bots?
Well, we take cues from Google’s ranking factors.
There are 200+ ranking factors, many of which the SEO community don’t know.
However, SEOs do know that Google’s algorithm assesses a piece of content/website using 26 things (you can read through them here).
If you plan on optimizing your site for search engines on your own, we recommend focusing your energy on the following three things: link building and content writing
What is link building?
Link building is the process of gaining backlinks. Backlinks are links to your website from other websites.
To Google, the quantity and quality of your backlinks are signals of your site’s trustworthiness and authority. This is why link building is so foundational.
There are many, many link building strategies. Instead of going through all of them (there’s no need to bore you, and there are plenty of great resources online), I recommend the following types of links:
Remember that quality trumps quantity. A bunch of spammy, irrelevant links actually hurts your site.
So, the ideal link would be from a local, authoritative institution regarding therapy and counseling. For example, a reputable organization of therapists in your city or state that was founded in the 90s.
That is the perfect link.
The types of content you write and how you write them is an amalgamation of a few of the top ranking factors.
Essentially, you want a mix of pages targeting transactional and information keywords that satisfy a person’s search intent. Search intent is the intention a person has when they enter a keyword into a search engine.
For example, if you’re searching for a celebrity’s net worth, you don’t necessarily want an essay. You are looking for a number. So, you want a quick 200 word post that succinctly answers your question.
However, what if you’re looking to buy a vacuum cleaner? In that case, you would want a list of the best vacuum cleaners on the market with pricing and features.
Actionable tip: Identifying search intent
You can quickly identify a user's search intent by simply entering the keyword on Google. Take note of the types of content on the page: are there lots of transactional pages? These include service areas. Or, are there lots of blog posts and guides? That generally means that people searching that keyword are looking for information over buying/hiring.
So, when writing content:
Simple enough, right?
Step four is optimizing your content, which is referred to as on-page SEO.
When optimizing your content for search, you have to write for people and bots. Bots read code, so when you write content, you have to optimize headings, image names, alt tags, and internal linking (to name a few).
Writing and optimizing content for SEO is complicated, and it’s constantly changing with video media, artificial intelligence, voice search, and more.
Below is an infographic that's a quick guide to writing for SEO.
When in doubt, write the absolute best content that you can. Google says that user experience is their #1 ranking factor, so when in doubt, write for potential clients. Put those empathy skills to work--answer every question.
Next, I will discuss SEO’s cousin: local SEO.
If you conduct a quick search on Google, you’ll notice that the SERP (the search engine results page) is set up like this:
There are ads.
There are local results.
Then, there are organic results.
Local SEO targets the local results, or the map pack, while SEO targets organic rankings. Keep in mind that they inform and help each other.
Ideally, you rank in the map pack that appears on the search engine results page.
You can work towards ranking locally by doing the following:
There's waaaay more that we could discuss about local SEO, but we'll leave it at that for now :)
In the marketing world, we like to refer to paid ads as the sprint and SEO as the marathon.
Both have their place, but if you’re looking for short-term wins to quickly build your practice, I recommend paid ads.
In this section, I’ll discuss how advertisements work online, budgets, and how to optimize your campaigns.
On the internet, you pay for advertisements via clicks or impressions.
If you are advertising on search engines themselves (see the image below), you pay only when someone clicks on your ad.
This is known as PPC advertising, or pay-per-click. Advertisements can appear at the top, bottom, or side of the SERP.
You can also pay for ads when someone views your ad, which is referred to as an impression.
If you have ever noticed ads on other websites (like the ad placement on the food blog pictured above), those ads are run through Google’s Display Network. The Display Network is a massive group of websites that are partners with Google, and ads run on these sites are charged when a person simply sees an ad. You can also run impression campaigns on social media.
Actionable tip: Targeting potential clients’ interests on social media advertising
Facebook isn’t really a social media platform--they are a data company. They have so much data on their users that they can identify political leanings, relationship statuses, interests, locations, and more. Although the ethics of this are debatable, this data does offer interest targeting options when advertising. This means that when setting up an ad, you can select to advertise it to people interested in mental health specifically.
Impression campaigns can be successful, but they can be costly. And I don’t mean expensive (necessarily), I mean that they typically cost more to acquire new clients.
It’s estimated that to click on your ad, clients need to see your advertisement a few times on the Display Network (or on social media). The question is, do you have the budget to pay for clients seeing an advertisement a few times before they even click on your ad?
Keep in mind that there is also a drop-off rate after people click on your ad. Just because someone clicks on your ad doesn’t automatically mean they become a client.
Because of this, for budget-conscious therapists starting their own private practices, I recommend PPC advertising simply because you have more control over where your budget goes. I only run PPC campaigns for my clients. I think that at this point in their practice, it is the best way for therapists to allocate their budget with control.
You can control your cost-per-click manually, but Google offers great bidding strategies, too. Experiment with them to see which works best for you.
Note that I am not against impression campaigns; impression campaigns are a huge part of many companies’ marketing strategies. But, I don’t personally think that they are the right choice for marketing a new therapy private practice.
Speaking of budgets, let’s discuss budgeting for your online campaign.
To budget for your campaign, you need to decide the monetary value a client has to your over time and how much you’re willing to spend to acquire them.
Let’s say that over a six month period, a client’s value is $1,200. To make a profit on that client, theoretically, you could spend up to $1,199.99 to acquire that client and profit. But let’s say you only want to spend $50 to acquire that client, and you want three new clients a month. So, theoretically, you would spend $150 a month to acquire three new clients.
But before you set that $50, also known as your target cost-per-acquisition, you need to compare that number with how much clicks actually cost. For example, the keyword [depression therapist] has an estimated cost-per-click (CPC) of $9. [depression therapist] is searched 1,000 times a month. You get 50 clicks a month, but only three of those clicks become clients.
So, hypothetically, you spent $450 in a month ($9 x 50 clicks). Divide that $450 by your three new clients, and you spent $150 per each client. A reasonable budget then, would be around $450 dollars per month to gain three new clients.
However, this example does not account for the many factors that go into optimizing a campaign, which help you compete with your competitors and make the most of your budget. I’ll go over that next.
As always, optimizing your campaign on Google comes back to quality.
Optimizing your campaign in these ways should raise your Quality Score (QS). Quality Score is one of Google’s metrics that assesses the, you guessed it, quality of your campaign. If your QS is high (QS can be a number anywhere between 1 and 10), your cost-per-click can actually decrease. This saves you money, and in turn, will likely help you convert more clients.
Marketing your therapy practice on directories is uncomplicated, but the results are anything but.
If you’re interested, you can read my complete list and full assessment of therapist directories.
Some directories, like Psychology Today, are kind of like a tax on marketing your therapy practice. You, in some ways, have to have a Psychology Today listing, but the tangible benefits of having the Psychology Today listing can be hard to tell.
In my post about how much a Psychology Today listing costs, I delve deeply into the benefits and promises of paying for a listing. FYI, it’s $29.95/month. That’s $360 per year, so it’s not nothing. However, if you sign one client per year, the listing pays for itself.
Here, I will go over the benefits and downsides of having listings on therapist directories.
There are a few benefits of directories for your therapist marketing.
A lot of directories allow you to link back to your website. Like I've mentioned before, backlinks are hugely beneficial for SEO. What’s great about these links is that:
Always check or ask the directory company if you will get a link back to your website. If you don’t, I don’t recommend paying for a listing.
Although it’s unlikely since there are so many listings, you could get leads. Directories typically offer filters that allow users to search for a therapist more specifically, but that will still make you one of hundreds of therapists.
Actionable tip: Getting leads on directories
To increase your chances, fill out your profile in its entirety. Make sure that your headshot looks professional (and NOT dated) and that your profile content speaks to your ideal client.
Depending on how much you invest in directories, the downsides could outweigh the positives. Regardless, they do exist.
Not all directories allow you to add links.
And if they do, they might be “nofollow” links, meaning Google doesn’t crawl them. There is debate about that in the SEO community. Many SEOs think that yes, actually Google does crawl nofollow links.
No follow links can still be beneficial, though. You want a natural looking backlink profile. If your backlink profile is too perfect, made up of only dofollow, high authority links, Google might think that it’s suspect. The absolute last thing that you want is a manual penalty from Google, although this is unlikely unless you get spammy links.
Like me mentioned, the chances of signing a client from a popular directory like Psychology Today are low. In Denver alone, there were 1,747 listings and 87 pages of results.
A lot of directories promise things that they shouldn’t.
These are big claims, and I doubt that they can back them up.
I believe that there is a time and place for directories, but they shouldn't be your only strategy. They're not on your side, and your exposure is 100% up to them. That's not too comforting.
Congratulations! You have successfully brought people to your website. But now, you have to turn them into clients.
Today, people typically spend a lot of time researching before hiring a therapist. By now, you've hopefully caught their eye with your amazing branding, website, photography, and content, but some people still won't contact you.
It's estimated that before hiring a business or purchasing a product, people view a business's content five to six times. This is why it's crucial to build an email list of prospective clients.
By subscribing, potential clients don't forget you and get to know you. To hire you, people have to know, like, and trust you. By communicating with potential clients on an email list, you can show your expertise and serve them, which warms them up to the idea of working with you.
Here are the top things you need to know about email marketing and your therapy practice.
Email marketing providers (Flodesk, Sendinblue, MailChimp, etc.) should make creating signup forms easy.
All you need is someone's first name and their email address. It's crucial that you get their name--it helps with personalizing their emails to increase your open and interaction rates.
On your form, make sure that you also turn on double opt-in. You've probably double opted-in to something before. After you enter your name and email address, you have to go to your inbox and confirm your subscription. Double opt-in is crucial for a few reasons:
Note that most email marketing platforms are not HIPAA compliant. It might be a good idea to inform people of that on your signup form or in your initial welcome sequence.
Here's the reality: most people won't sign up for your email list UNLESS you offer them something really valuable. By creating an incentive, or a lead magnet, you increase the likeliness of a subscription.
Your lead magnet doesn't have to be complicated. It can be a simple PDF that you attach or send via a link in a welcome email. Whatever you end up going with, make sure that it provides a solution to your ideal client. For example, if you work with anxious people who suffer from IBS, you could create a simple list of tips on managing their anxiety and IBS.
Lead magnets help potential clients and show them that you know what you're talking about.
Make sure to center your sign up form around your lead magnet.
The copy for the form could be something like "5 tips to decrease your anxiety today!" One simple, transformative statement goes a long way.
After subscribers sign up, send a series of welcome emails. These "nurture" sequences allow you to introduce yourself more and send them valuable content that helps them with their problems. A welcome sequence should be two to five emails spread over a week or two. Let them know that you won't email this much in the future, only now you as you get to know each other.
Pack this sequence with value. Your best blog posts, more free downloads, tips, support... anything that makes the subscriber feel cared for. This will warm them to you, and makes imagining themselves in therapy with you more real.
Make your welcome sequence (and all your welcome emails) personable. Don't act like you're writing to your email list; act like you're writing to one person.
Updating your list on changes to your practices is good, but giving them content that they need is better.
I've heard before that content marketing isn't providing content that people want. It's providing content that people need, content that people can't imagine living without.
Sharing blog posts, creating resources only for your list (speak to them like they're an insider, a VIP), and other methods significantly increase the likeliness of a conversion (meaning a client working with you, or whatever goal you have).
Keep in mind that some subscribers may not be from your state, so you may not be able to work with them in a therapy setting. But who's to say that you don't start coaching across state lines? Maybe creating digital products like online courses? Or maybe you want to offer wellness retreats? An engaged email list allows you to venture into alternative sources of income more easily.
We've been discussing marketing your practice (business) this whole time. But in reality, you are marketing your brand. Brands last longer than businesses and are worth ten times what your therapy practice could be. Building out your list may be your greatest asset. Having a dedicated audience allows you to try new things in your career as an entrepreneur.
Social media algorithms change and people stop using certain platforms. Because of this, you have to curate an audience on your own platforms like your mailing list. You definitely won't regret it.
As you may have guessed by now, I do marketing for therapists and counselors :)
If you're interested in working with me, keep scrolling to learn more about me and my services or contact me to schedule a free consultation.